Tag Archive: Law of God

Questions: What do Evangelicals Consider “Moral Failing?”

i have a question

I put out the call to readers, asking them for questions they would like me to answer. If you have a question, please leave it here or email me. All questions will be answered in the order in which they are received.

Darcy asked:

I was just reading something about drug addiction being a medical problem, not a morality problem. Then I realized poverty is also often seen as a moral failing. (Which means a failure to be a True Christian®). Are any other problems often seen as a moral failing, as in NOT True Christian®? Mental illness, physical illness, birth defects (used to be seen as a mark of the devil because of immoral parents), being a survivor of abuse, being LGBTQ, not finding your usual parking space, etc.?

Evangelicals believe the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. Sin is transgression of the Law of God (as found within the pages of the Bible). Thus, you would think that Evangelicals would be diligent in keeping the more than 700 laws, commands, precepts, and teachings found in the Old and New Testaments. If the Bible is what Evangelicals say it is, wouldn’t it stand to reason that these followers of Jesus would commit themselves to studying, understanding, and practicing ALL that the Bible teaches — even the hard things? Yet, we know that Evangelicals don’t live differently from the unwashed, uncircumcised Philistines of the world. Outside of what they do with their time on Sunday mornings, there’s little difference between saints and sinners.

Every Evangelical is what I call a Buffet Christian®. Evangelicals, clean plate in hand, walk down the Bible buffet line, picking and choosing what to believe and practice, ignoring the rest. No one obeys all the teachings of the Bible. I don’t know of one Christian who even believes and practices the red words in the Bible (words attributed to Jesus) or Jesus’ most famous sermon, the Sermon on the Mount. Years ago, I told the church I was pastoring, that Christianity would be better served if Christians shut their mouths and spent the next five years putting the Sermon on the Mount into practice. Of course, neither I nor the people I pastored listened to what I was saying. We had a culture war to fight. Jesus would just have to wait until we conquered the United States for God.

One peculiarity found in some Evangelical churches — especially Holiness and Independent Fundamentalist Baptist (IFB) congregations — is the notion of “church standards.” Church standards consist of a written (sometimes unwritten) list of things church members are expected to believe and practice. After I left the ministry in 2005, our family looked for a church to attend. We found a dying Bible church in Butler, Indiana we thought we would be a good fit for us. The pastor, Jim Glasscock, was a wonderful man, as was his wife. When I inquired about joining, Jim was excited. However, his excitement quickly turned to disappointment. You see, the church had certain standards for members, one of which was holding to dispensational theology and pretribulational, premillennial eschatology. I was a non-dispensational amillennialist. This meant that we could NOT join the church.  Crazy, right?

IFB churches, in particular, are known for having church standards. Some churches require new members to agree to their church’s standards. Often, new congregants are required to sign their names, saying they have read the standards and agree to abide by them. Other churches only do this for members who are in leadership capacities. Back in the late 1970s, we attended the Newark Baptist Temple for a short time. Polly’s uncle, the late Jim Dennis, was the pastor. Polly’s father was the assistant pastor. Annually, members in leadership positions were required to sign on the dotted line affirming submission to the church’s standards. I refused to sign the form, causing quite a problem. I continued to teach Sunday school and drive a bus, but my refusal to submit caused a rift between Pastor Dennis and me.

One afternoon, I stopped by the Baptist Temple to pick Polly up from work. She was a teacher at the church’s school. At the time, I was a general manager for Arthur Treacher’s in Reynoldsburg. It was my day off, and a fellow manager and I got together to play some pick-up basketball. Afterward, wearing sweaty gym shorts and a t-shirt, I stopped at the church to pick up Polly. I knew my dress was a violation of the church’s standards, but, hey, I was just running in and running out, no big deal. Or so I thought. Unfortunately, Pastor Dennis saw me and lit into me like he would someone who was standing there stark naked. He took us to his office and dressed us up one side and down the other. Ever the rebel, I didn’t take his abuse lying down. Pastor Dennis’ behavior turned my rift with him into a chasm — one that neither of us ever totally resolved after that.

Another church that comes to mind is Maranatha Bible Church in Glenford, Ohio. One evening, the church’s pastor, Bob Shaw, stopped by a congregant’s home unannounced. Imagine his surprise when the door was opened by a female Sunday school teacher wearing pants! His outrage over her “sin” caused a huge blow-up, leading to the family leaving the church. Of course, at the time, I had a similar belief about women wearing pants. One woman in the church I pastored refused to stop wearing pants. I went over to her home to talk to her about her lack of submission to the church’s standards (Greek for submissions to my personal beliefs and preferences). She was, of course, wearing pants. As we sat there talking, her husband pointed to his wife and said, “do you really believe ________ wearing pants is a sin?” He was sure that, when pressed, I would back down, but I didn’t. It was the 1980s, and I really did believe that women shouldn’t wear pants. (My wife, Polly, wore a pair of pants for the first time in 2004, at the age of forty-six.)  I told him, “yes, your wife is sinning wearing pants!” Our conversations ended on a cordial note, but this family never darkened the doors of the church again. A few years ago, I apologized to the wife for being such an ass. She graciously accepted my apology (though she, to this day, can’t wrap her mind around the fact that I am an atheist).

I have said all this to point out that when it comes to defining “moral failure” (sin), Evangelicals are all over the place. What is considered a moral failing differs from church to church, pastor to pastor, and member to member. Every Evangelical has a list — written or unwritten — of beliefs and practices by which he or she determines what is or isn’t moral. Take receiving government assistance. I never had a problem with congregants receiving government help. Hell, the Gerencser family wouldn’t have survived the 1980s without the Federal government and the State of Ohio lending them a BIG helping hand. We didn’t have medical insurance for 16 years. Five of our six children were birthed thanks to evil Medicaid. That said, I knew pastors who opposed all forms of government assistance. No matter how dire the circumstances, congregants were expected to pray, seek God’s help, and do everything they could do to change their circumstances.

Some churches have strict qualifications for who may or may not be a pastor. Such churches use 1 Timothy 3 as a list of absolute qualities for a pastor. I saw one standard, ruling your own children well, used to boot several men out of the ministry; not due to anything they had done, but because a grown child was out in the “world” sinning against God. Never mind the fact that I don’t know one pastor — including myself at the time — that measured up to the qualifications found in 1 Timothy 3:1-7:

This is a true saying, if a man desire the office of a bishop, he desireth a good work. A bishop then must be blameless, the husband of one wife, vigilant, sober, of good behaviour, given to hospitality, apt to teach; Not given to wine, no striker, not greedy of filthy lucre; but patient, not a brawler, not covetous; One that ruleth well his own house, having his children in subjection with all gravity; (For if a man know not how to rule his own house, how shall he take care of the church of God?) Not a novice, lest being lifted up with pride he fall into the condemnation of the devil. Moreover he must have a good report of them which are without; lest he fall into reproach and the snare of the devil.

The same goes for the “fruit of the Spirit.” According to Evangelicals, True Christians® are indwelt by the Holy Ghost. In other words, God lives inside every believer, acting as their teacher, guide, and conscience. Galatians 5:22,23 says:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

Tell me, do you know one Christian who meets this standard? Note, verse 22 says, the fruit of the Spirit IS (present tense), and not some sort of objective for Evangelicals to aspire for. Much like the standard for pastors, Evangelicals are expected to show in their lives “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance.” Know any believers who meet this standard? Of course not. Jesus told his disciples, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” How is that working out for God’s chosen ones? (That’s a rhetorical question, by the way.)

Evangelicals do have lists of beliefs and behaviors they consider “moral failings” However, these lists are dependent on personal interpretation of the Bible, whim, tribal influence, cultural influence, and personal experience. There’s no such thing as an infallible, inviolable, authoritative standard — despite Evangelicals suggesting otherwise. One need only watch current internecine wars being fought among Evangelicals over female preachers, LGBTQ church members, same-sex marriage, and a host of other social hot-button issues. In 1 Corinthians 2, Paul writes about Christians having the Holy Spirit as their teacher. Unlike “the natural man [who] receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, followers of Jesus have “the mind of Christ.” Tell me, in a nation where most people profess to be Christians, where are the people who “have the mind of Christ?” Where are the people who think and act like Jesus?

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Are you on Social Media? Follow Bruce on Facebook and Twitter.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

Should Christians Keep the Old Testament Law?

keep-gods-commandmentsWarning, snark ahead!

I have long argued — even from my Christian days — that Christians are obligated to keep Old Testament law. Christian apologists and theologians use all sorts of hocus pocus and hermenuetical wrangling to make such a demand go away, but the Bible is clear: the Old Testament law is valid, in force, and binding on all Christians today. Jesus is quoted as saying in Matthew 5:17-18:

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.

See Bruce, Jesus came to fulfill the law. Now that Jesus has died and resurrected from the dead, the Old Testament law is no longer in force. Not the Ten Commandments? Not the prohibitions against homosexuality? Well, uh, you see, well, uh, anyway, how about them Cowboys? 

Notice what Jesus said: Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Go outside, stand in your yard, and look up to the sky. Are heaven and earth still standing? Yep, so that means that Old Testament law is still in force. Remember, when Jesus spoke these words, his “Bible” was the Old Testament. There was no New Testament, no gospels, no writings of Paul. Jesus, the good Baptist that he was, carried with him and read a leather-bound Oxford King James Old Testament.  Which is odd when you consider that Jesus was God and he, through his spirit sidekick the Holy Ghost, spoke the words of the Bible into existence. (2 Peter 1:21 and 2 Timothy 3:16-17) Or so Evangelicals say, anyway.

Oh, Bruce, you are nuts. Christians are saved by grace and live under the New Covenant. Hmm, are you saying, then, that the people in the Old Testament were saved differently; that they were saved by works; by keeping the Law of God? Well, uh, you see, well, uh, anyway, how about them Raptors? Bruce, surely you know that God’s law is broken up into three categories; Moral, Civil, and Ceremonial. Really? Where can I find such divisions in the Bible? I’ll wait. Go look. Keep looking. Can’t find anything? Come on, how hard can it be? Don’t quote John Calvin or Rousas Rushdoony. I want it straight from the inerrant Word of God. No luck?  How about admitting you are just making shit up to distance yourself from the clear implication of Jesus’ words in Matthew 5: that all Christians are under and obligated to practice Old Testament Law; and that failing to do so is a sure sign that someone is not a follower of Jesus.

Evangelicals, in particular, love to call themselves “people of the Book.” Supposedly, the Bible, from Table of Contents to Concordance, is the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. If this is so, why don’t Evangelicals keep the Old Testament law? Why do Evangelicals, in fact, pick and choose what they want to believe from the Old Testament? Why do Evangelicals clamor for the posting of the Ten Commandments on public classroom walls, yet don’t actually believe all ten commandments are binding and in force today? When’s the last time you’ve seen an Evangelical “remember the Sabbath Day and keep it holy? Going to church for an hour or two on Sundays AIN’T keeping the Sabbath holy. Sorry Baptists, no NFL on Sundays for Sabbath keepers. Well, wait a minute, isn’t the Sabbath from Friday to Saturday?  So, NFL football is okay, but not college football. No Ohio State, Alabama, Texas or USC. Man, talk about suffering for Jesus.

Centuries ago, Christians had the opportunity to distance themselves from the Jewish Old Testament. Instead, they appropriated it for their own, and it hangs around their necks like a millstone to this day. I bet they wish they had a do-over on that one.

Bruce, you are certifiably crazy. Yes, but that’s beside the point. I am sure you are wondering if I have any proof for the assertions made in this post. Quote one theologian who believes this, you say, thinking you got me right where you want me. Well, get ready to have your hemorrhoids massaged, Buddy.

Eminent New Testament scholar Dr. Bart Ehrman recently wrote a post titled, Should the Old Testament Even be in the Bible? Here’s an excerpt:

First I must deal with the all-important prior question I have already alluded to. If, very early in their history, Christians chose to bypass precisely the laws and instructions the Bible enjoins on the people of God, why did they see any utility of having the Old Testament at all? If it was outdated, why not simply jettison it altogether?

Early Christians took a number of different approaches to that question. One view can be assigned to the historical Jesus himself and his very earliest followers – the disciples and their converts.

These were Jews dedicated to following the will of God as expressed in the Law of Moses.  The Hebrew Bible was their one and only Scripture.   It was to be kept.   Yes, it had to be interpreted – every legal code has to be.  But it was absolutely, and literally, to be followed.  All of it: circumcision; Sabbath observance; kosher food laws; festivals.

This view never completely died out.  We know of Christian groups who adhered to it for centuries.  Some still do today.  It is a view placed on Jesus’ lips in Matthew, the very first book of the New Testament, in passages typically overlooked by Christians both ancient and modern who don’t believe that Jesus could possibly urge his followers to keep the Jewish law.  But in fact he does, in no uncertain terms – nowhere more clearly than in the famous Sermon on the Mount (ironically, perhaps, revered throughout history by even the most virulent Christian opponents of Judaism):

Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish, but to fulfill…..   Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.  For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  (Matthew 5:17-20)

How many of the commandments found in the Jewish Scriptures need to be followed?  All of them.  Even the least of them.  No exceptions.   In fact, Jesus’ followers have to follow these commandments more scrupulously than the famously scrupulous scribes and Pharisees.

Jesus continues in the sermon to explain just how his followers are to be more righteous than the Jewish religious leaders of their day.   Needless to say, it will take special effort.   The law says not to murder?  You need to go a step farther: you shouldn’t even get angry with someone.  It says not to steal your neighbor’s spouse?  You shouldn’t even want to.  It says to be just in your judgment, and make the penalty fit the crime (“an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth”)?  You should instead show mercy (“turn the other cheek”).

Christians have tended to read these “Antitheses” as Jesus’ abrogation of the law, but that is precisely wrong.  He does not get rid of the law or absolve his followers of the responsibility of keeping it.   He does not say: “The law says you shall not murder, but I say you should.”  Instead he accepts the literal interpretation of the law and then makes it both more difficult and not simply a matter of external observation.  Literal adherence is not enough: doing the will of God as found in the law requires a heartfelt commitment that affects even attitudes, emotions, and desires.  But one still has to follow the literal law.

….

Snap, Skippy! Best be reading the Old Testament Law and putting it into practice! Your eternal destiny depends on you keeping every jot and tittle of the Law. I didn’t say this, Jesus did. To quote the plethora of apologists who have dumped loads of raw sewage on this blog, your problem is not with me, it’s with God. I’m only God’s mouthpiece.

Thus saith Bruce Almighty.

If you are not a member of Dr. Ehrman’s blog, I encourage you to join today. $24.99 a year, all proceeds go to charity.

About Bruce Gerencser

Bruce Gerencser, 62, lives in rural Northwest Ohio with his wife of 41 years. He and his wife have six grown children and twelve grandchildren. Bruce pastored Evangelical churches for twenty-five years in Ohio, Texas, and Michigan. Bruce left the ministry in 2005, and in 2008 he left Christianity. Bruce is now a humanist and an atheist. For more information about Bruce, please read the About page.

Thank you for reading this post. Please share your thoughts in the comment section. If you are a first-time commenter, please read the commenting policy before wowing readers with your words. All first-time comments are moderated. If you would like to contact Bruce directly, please use the contact form to do so.

Donations are always appreciated. Donations on a monthly basis can be made through Patreon. One-time donations can be made through PayPal.

1998: The Theological Beliefs of Pastor Bruce Gerencser

bruce polly gerencser our fathers house west unity

Polly and Bruce Gerencser, Our Father’s House, West Unity, Ohio Circa 2000

Excerpt from Our Father’s House website, circa 1998.

Often I am asked “what does your Church believe about__________?”  This is not an easy question to answer because our Church is a body made up of individuals, and even in a smaller Church like Our Father’s House, there are “differing” views on what the Bible says about some things. We do not set any particular creed or statement of faith as a requirement for membership in the Church. Rather, if a person has repented of their sins, and by faith trusted Christ for Salvation , AND has a desire to be taught the Word of God , we encourage them to become a part of our assembly. We accept the Apostle’s Creed as a summary statement of belief. Please see our Church constitution for further information.

So, when asked “what does your Church believe about__________?”   it is better for me to say what “I” believe and to share the viewpoint that “I” teach from.

I am an a expositional preacher. The primary Bible version I use is the KJV. Some Church members use the NKJV.  Usually I preach on random passages of Scripture, and at times will preach through books of the Bible. I believe the Bible is the inerrant, infallible Word of God. It does not just contain the words of God, it IS the Words of God, every jot and every tittle.

I am an Evangelical. I willingly embrace all those who claim the name of Christ and walk in His truth.  I believe the denominational fragmentation that is seen today is a dishonor to the God of Heaven. The world will know we are Christians by the love we have for one another. One of my desires is to promote love and unity among God’s people. Lest someone think I am an ecumenist, I oppose the Evangelical and Catholics Together statement. While I readily grant that there are many Roman Catholics who are Christians (and I embrace them as such), the official doctrine of the Roman Church is salvation (justification) by works.  In the name of Christ, I embrace God’s people wherever they may be found, but I strongly oppose the false gospel of works taught in many Churches . A sinner is saved (justified) apart from the works of the law. (or any other work like baptism, joining the Church, being confirmed) Sinners are not saved by works but UNTO good works. (Ephesians 2:8-10)

I am a Non-Cessationist. I believe that the spiritual gifts are for today and that they are in operation today. While I would not call myself a charismatic, I do find a common bond with men such as John Piper and Martyn Lloyd Jones and ministries such as People of Destiny. I do not believe that many of the so-called charismatic gifts exercised in many Charismatic/Pentecostal Churches are of God. Such Churches preach a gospel according to the Holy Spirit not a gospel that finds as its foundation Jesus Christ. Any gospel that requires a person to speak in tongues, evidence the fullness of the spirit, etc. is a false gospel. I also stand opposed to the modern prosperity gospel preached by men such as Kenneth Hagin, Kenneth Copeland, Freddy Price, etal. The modern charismatic movement is an admixture of truth and error and is best described like a mixture of the Corinthian and Laodicean  Church. I also stand opposed to most of the teaching regarding demons, territorial spirits, and demon/spirit possession. There is a real devil who can and does possess his children (John 8:44) and our battle is with him, but much of the spiritual warfare teaching is according to the philosophies of men and not of God.

I believe in the validity of the law of God. God’s law  is pure, holy, and true, and man is enjoined by God to obey. I emphasize that the believer is to progress in sanctification and holiness. Saved people LIVE like saved people. I find much in common with the good men and women. of the Chalcedon Foundation. They are a small voice in a large wilderness declaring the validity of the law of God.

I am a Calvinist. I believe in the Sovereignty of God and that salvation is of the Lord. No man can save himself. I do not believe man has an innate ability to believe. Unless the Father, by the power of His Spirit, draws a man to salvation, that man will never be saved.  I believe in the perseverance (preservation) of the saints. God keeps His own until the day of salvation. I consider the doctrine of eternal security preached in many Churches to be a perversion of the truth because it denies a connection between the saviorship and lordship of Christ in a man’s life.  There is a direct connection between a man who is saved and how he lives. The same God who saves a man has also ordained that that same man would live a life of good works. No holiness, no heaven! While I consider myself a Calvinist, I stand against hyper Calvinism and its denial of the free offer of the gospel. I also reject double predestination as a doctrine rooted in the philosophies of men and not the Word of God.  As a minister of the gospel, my desire is not to convert Arminians to Calvinists, nor is it to promote a system.  I preach Christ. Calvinism is the best description of how and why God saves a sinner.  I, without hesitation, affirm the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith as an accurate statement of that which I most surely believe.

I am post tribulational, and a-millennial. I believe the Church will go through the tribulation and that there yet awaits a day when Jesus Christ will come again and judge the world.

I believe in the Lordship of Christ. We do not make Him Lord, HE IS LORD. Because He is Lord, we are called on to live holy, separated lives. The standard for such living is the Word of God. I reject all man made standards of living, for God has given us everything we need pertaining to life and godliness. Legalistic standards of touch not ,taste not are rejected as the philosophies of men.

My favorite theologians and authors are JC Ryle, Wayne Grudem, Donald Bloesch, Charles Spurgeon, Thomas Watson, Gardiner Spring, John MacArthur and most anything written during the Puritan era. Truly a minister is known by the books he reads.  My favorite bookstore is the Cumberland Valley Bible and Book Service. They are an excellent source of sound doctrinal books and of course they carry a large supply of Puritan books

So there you have it……….this is not all I believe…………but I have given you enough so that you can decide what kind of preacher you think I am. After you decide……..if you are still interested, please do stop and visit. We will be delighted to have you as our guest. If you have a question please e mail me and I will promptly reply.

Pastor Bruce Gerencser

Evangelical John Piper Says God Changed His Mind About Executing Homosexuals

god does not change

According to Fundamentalist Calvinist John Piper, Old Testament commands concerning the execution of homosexuals no longer apply. According to Leviticus 20:13, homosexuality is punishable by death. God’s inerrant, infallible, never-changing Bible says:

If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.

I find no ambiguity in this verse. Have sexual relations with someone of the same gender and God commands that you be put to death (Though technically, this verse does not mention lesbians). So then, how does Piper, a staunch believer in inerrancy, get around Leviticus 20:13? Piper states that things have changed, that the way God views homosexuality now is different from how he viewed it in the Old Testament. While homosexuality is still a sin, says Piper, the punishment for it has changed. In other words, God changed his mind. Rather than stoning homosexuals to death, God is content to wait until they die. Then he can fit them with a body that will withstand untold pain and suffering. Once fitted with a God-approved fire suit, God will then spend the next billion or so years torturing homosexuals in the Lake of Fire. Ah yes, the kinder, gentler, nicer God of the New Testament.

I would love to ask Piper if he would approve of homosexuals being sentenced to death. If U.S. law, mimicking the commands of God’s inerrant Word, allowed for the execution of those convicted of sodomy, would he support such a law? I suspect he would. According to Calvinists such as John Piper and Al Mohler, God is perfect, righteous, and just in all his ways. If this is so, then when God commanded Israel to kill homosexuals (and non-Jews, fornicators, and adulterers), his command is perfect, righteous, and just. Since I know how Piper views God, I can say with great confidence that he would have no problem with the U.S. legal code using the Bible’s laws, commands, and precepts as a foundation for regulating human behavior. Surely God’s law is superior to man’s law, right?

What prompted Piper’s post was a question from a podcast listener:

Dear Pastor John, I want to first thank you for the Ask Pastor John podcast and for your obedience and love for the Lord. One thing I have always struggled to communicate is the difference between the Old Testament Law and the fulfilled Law after Christ. I have many atheist friends who press me here, specifically when it comes to homosexuality. Why do we as Christians not believe practicing homosexuals should be killed for their sin if that is exactly the prescription in our Bibles in Leviticus 20:13? How would you answer this objection?”

Ah, those pesky verse-quoting atheists, using the Bible against Christians. According to Piper, these atheists really don’t understand the Bible, nor do they know how to interpret it properly. Piper writes:

This is huge and absolutely crucial. And we need an answer for it to those who ask. It is such a common response for somebody that has a smattering of knowledge or has just read that there are these verses in the Bible like that. And it is not difficult to answer this problem. It just takes a little willingness on the part of people to listen for a few minutes as we describe the nature of the Christian Bible.

Besides, what these atheists really need is not answers about God commanding the execution of homosexuals. Oh no, what they really need is — drum roll please — Jesus. Piper concludes his post with this:

So our overall aim in dealing with our critics who don’t know their Bibles is to direct them to Jesus, who is the goal of everything in the Bible and to try to help them see that God has been moving through history in different ways at different times to bring us into a relationship with Jesus for the salvation of our souls.

In other words, ignore their questions and point them to Jesus. Once they are saved, atheists will understand how to properly explain away Leviticus 20:13 and dozens of other verses which clearly show that the Christian God is a narcissistic, bloodthirsty psychopath.

Piper appeals to Matthew 5:17 as proof for his contention that there is a new God, with a new law, in town. Matthew 5:17 states:

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil.

According to Piper, who is supposedly a theologian:

We see the first pointer of how things have changed dramatically in Matthew 5:17, where Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” So all the Old Testament finds its completion and fulfillment in Jesus—and that is a basic truth that a person needs to understand. Everything in the Old Testament was pointing toward Jesus as the Son of God incarnate, dying and rising to save His people. And, therefore, in His person, in His ministry, the whole Old Testament reaches a climax and is dramatically altered.

Seems pretty straight forward. Jesus, by his death on the cross for the elect, fulfilled (satisfied, completed) the Old Testament. Thus, its laws, commands, and precepts are no longer binding today. Once Jesus died and rose again from the dead everything changed. Or so says John Piper.

Taking Piper’s position at face value, this means that none of the Old Testament’s laws are in force, including the Ten Commandments. So, Bro. Piper. Are the Ten Commandments applicable to today?  Let the shuck and jive begin. In a post titled, Are Christians Under the Ten Commandments?, Piper wrote:

No. The Bible says we’re not under the law.
….
So, our approach towards ethics is different. We don’t ask the question, “Am I under the law?” We are under grace. The law is already fulfilled perfectly by Jesus. We are in Jesus and as far justification goes, God sees it as completed for you, one-hundred percent. He says, “You’ve trusted my Son. You’ve been grafted in him. You are in Christ Jesus and he fulfilled the law perfectly. He covered all your sins.” God sees you in and through Christ, therefore, as far as final judgment goes God is 100% for you. That is settled and nothing is going to change it.
….
Love God and do as you please is not bad advice, if you’re bent on holiness. If you’re bent on love the ten commandments are really important. You should hang them on your wall and you should measure your life by them, but in a very different way than when you were under them, because they have been kept for you.

No, the Christian is NOT under the law, says Piper, but if he really, really, really, I mean really loves the Evangelical God, he will keep the Ten Commandments. Sure sounds like the Ten Commandments are binding and in force.

Like all Evangelicals who resort to playing the Bible gymnastics game, Piper uses Matthew 5:17 in a way that makes it say something other than what it actually says. Why didn’t Piper quote the relevant verses after verse 17? You know, to give a bit of context. Here is what Matthew 5:17-19 says:

Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

No wonder Piper didn’t quote verses 18 and 19. These verses undo and contradict the point he was trying to make. Well, let me, an atheist theologian, educate Piper and others of his ilk, about this passage of Scripture.

First, the gospel of Matthew was written 40 to 70 years after the death of Jesus. This means it was written at least four decades after Jesus, according to John Piper, established the New Covenant through his atoning death and resurrection from the dead. Why would the author of Matthew write about whether the Old Testament law had been fulfilled? Surely, two to four generations after Jesus died. Christians would by then KNOW the Old Testament was no longer in force?

Second, does this passage really say that Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament and that it is no longer binding? Verse 17 says yes, but verses 18 and 19 say no. Verse 18 states unambiguously that the law of God (the Old Testament) is in force until “all be fulfilled.” The fulfillment here is not the Old Testament or even the death and resurrection of Jesus. The text states that the Old Testament is in force until heaven and earth pass away. This passing away is described in 2 Peter 3:10-12:

But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?

Go outside and look up. Are you standing on earth? Is heaven (the sky) still above you? Okay, maybe you didn’t have to go outside to know this. Evidently John Piper needs to spend more time outside. Matthew 5:17-19 is quite clear: until heaven and earth pass away, the law of God is still in force. In fact, the Bible says that every jot and tittle of God’s law is valid and binding. This means that every minute detail of God’s law applies to New Testament Christians: from the execution of homosexuals to not eating certain foods such as pork and shellfish.

I am sure someone will suggest, hoping to rescue Piper from the sea of contradiction, that the law that is now binding is the New Covenant (New Testament). Here’s the problem with this attempted end run around the text. At the time of the writing of this text, Christians had not yet completely collated the canon of Scripture. Thus, at best, all early Christians had was a partial book of God’s laws. It makes more sense, especially when considering that most early Christians were Jews and Christianity was considered a subset of Judaism, that the word law in Matthew 5:17-19 refers to some or all of the Old Testament.

Verse 19 is one of the most difficult verses in the Bible. Well, difficult for Fundamentalists such as John Piper. Believing the Bible is the inspired, inerrant, and infallible Word of God requires Evangelicals to harmonize the Biblical text. There are no mistakes, errors, misstatements, contradictions, or bad writing days.  According to a normative reading of verse 19, there are two classes of people who will enter the kingdom of God: those who break the laws of God and teach others to do the same and those who keep the law of God and instruct others to do the same. So then, there will be deliberate lawbreakers in Heaven, those who not only disobey God, but also teach others to follow in their footsteps?

The Apostle Paul, a man known to pen quite a few contradictions himself, disagrees with the writer of Matthew. According to Paul’s gospel (a gospel that is quite different from Jesus’),  breakers of God’s law will NOT enter the kingdom of heaven:

Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. (1 Corinthians 6:9,10)

Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. (Galatians 5:19-21,24)

Of course, Paul, ever the jokester, writes in other epistles that no one will enter the kingdom of God by keeping the law of God. Paul, Paul, Paul, what are we going to do with you?

Don’t you just love playing the Dueling Bible Verses Game®? I have long believed that the Bible can be used to prove virtually any belief. The various Christian sects have fought internecine wars for centuries over whose interpretation of the Bible is correct. I have come to the conclusion that all of them are right.  The Arminian, Calvinist, cessationist, non-cessationist, and every other theological name Christians give to their one-hundred-percent-pure interpretations of the perfect Word of God, are all correct!

I have no doubt that an Evangelical or five will likely point out that my exegesis is wrong. They will quote verse after verse, massaging and shaping them to fit their peculiar theological system of belief. But, try as they might to make sense of an incoherent book, all their contortions will do is cause more inconsistencies and contradictions. It is, contrary to thousands of Evangelicals books that say otherwise, impossible to make the Bible internally consistent. The best that Evangelicals can do is obfuscate, explain away, or stutter when confronted with verses that do not fit their particular theological paradigm.

Note

Leviticus 20 also commands the execution of people for all sorts of sex crimes.

A 1997 Bryan Times Editorial by Bruce Gerencser: “America is in Trouble, Big Trouble”

america is in trouble

Published on September 25,1997. At the time, I was pastor of Our Father’s House in West Unity, Ohio. This is a good example of how I used to think about life, God, the Bible, sin,  and culture. This was not a Letter to the Editor. I wrote it for the Community Voice editorial column on the editorial page of The Bryan Times.

America is in trouble… big trouble. The moral and ethical structure of our nation is crumbling at its very foundation. We, at one time, accepted the “law of God” as our moral and ethical standard, but now, relativism reigns supreme. Law, morality, and ethics are relative to the situation and circumstance. It seems that there are no absolutes. We debate such issues as abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, homosexuality, etc., and by our debate suggest that God has not spoken on these issues. God’s law is not a mystery. His law is clear. It is we, as defiant creatures, who have shaken our fist at the heavens and said, “We will not have You to rule over us.” As a result, instead of being ruled by the laws of Jehovah, we are ruled by the laws and system of corrupt humans. We have become a nation of people aptly described as “they did what was right in their own eyes.”

Who do we blame for the mess we are in? It is easy to blame the politicians. It is easy to point to the Clinton/Gore administration and say “they are the problem.” Recent articles in the Bryan Times reported on the meeting of the Christian Coalition. They were quick to blame the Democrats for all the ills in our society, all the while ignoring the ethical and moral lapses of those they support (i.e. Newt Gingrich). No, I would contend that what we see in Washington is a consequence and not a source of our ills.

The blame must be laid on the church and her ministers. There was a day when the church and her ministers were respected and were considered the moral voice of the community and our nation. Such is not the case today. Society has concluded that the church is irrelevant and her ministers are nothing more than educated buffoons. We are told to keep our religion within the four walls of the church (separation of church and state you know) and to keep our moral and ethical pronouncements to ourselves. If a prophetic voice is raised, screams of “Thou shalt not judge” are quickly heard. We, as ministers of the gospel, should be ashamed for allowing our voices to be silenced in such a manner. God has called us to be a clear voice of light in our decadent society. How then, can we be the prophets of God has called us to be?

First, we need to be reminded of who the boss is in this world. It is not the government, it is not society, it is not any mere human: it is God. He is the Sovereign of the universe. He is the Creator and we are the creatures. Our society needs to be reminded of who is in charge and that we will all be held accountable on Judgment Day.

Second, we need to be reminded of the authority of the Bible and the law of God. The Bible is God’s written revelation to man. His laws are to be loved and obeyed. The pulpits of America have been silent to the law of God and as a result antinomianism reigns. Church members have no absolutes and as a result they follow their own rules or they let “their conscience be their guide.” The greatness of a nation is directly related to the respect and obedience it gives to the law of God.

Third, we need to return to being  bastions of absolute truth and morality. Ministers need to be thundering prophets instead of mild, wimpy church mice. There is no time for compromise. The battle is real and we must fight. On Judgment Day we will not be judged on our popularity, but rather on how we faithfully fought the battle and kept the faith.

Fourth, we need to stop trying to be culturally relevant to such a degree that we sacrifice what is true and honoring to God. The appearance of Audio Adrenaline at the Williams County Fair is case in point. In an effort to “reach”young people (and perhaps fill the grandstands) two high-powered “Christian” rock ‘n roll groups were booked at the fair. When Audio Adrenaline took the stage the party began to rock and roll. Complete with body piercing and mosh pits, we were given a quick lesson on how far we have slipped in our Christian society. We see the troubles that young people face and we think by lowering the standard and meeting them at the lowest common denominator we’ll “reach” them. Sadly we have been deceived. Young people need to hear truth, absolute truth. They need to hear preaching that challenges, provokes, and rebukes. They need to hear the kind of preaching that ultimately lead them to a higher standard in Jesus Christ. We have become convinced that the timeless methods that God has ordained no longer work. This is the ultimate deception.

Fifth, we need to return the word SIN to our vocabulary. God says sin is transgression of the law of God. The church and her ministers are not the final authority on what is holy and what is sin. God is. Ministers are called on to repeat what God has said (thus saith the Lord). Because of the fear of men we do not preach on the “hard” subjects. We piously leave that to the “conscience” of the people. Such denial of responsibility will not wash with God on Judgment Day. We desperately need a revival of preaching against sin and the preaching of the solution to sin that is found in Jesus Christ.

When will we learn that people want truth and not compromise? We fear being rejected or ridiculed. We fear our message will not be heard or that we will be viewed as a Bible thumping fanatics. Well, a cursory reading of the Bible will show that we would be in good company. The prophets of old did not conform to their society, but instead demanded that their society conform to the truth of God’s Word. They demanded of all men everywhere that they”repent and believe the gospel.”

I would ask my fellow ministers and fellow Christians…when our eulogy is read what will be said? Will we be remembered as one who was a true follower of Jesus Christ? One who was faithful to his holy Word? Will our life reflect one who was a radical follower of Jesus? Life is short and in but a few days we will pass from this life. Let us labor for that which is eternal. Let us restore those things we have let slip and restore God as the rightful ruler of our nation.

Sin is What Sinners Do: A Few Thoughts on the Christian Concept of Sin

gluttony is a sin

Sin.

According to the Bible, sin is transgression of the law.

Let the debate begin

Which law?

Old Testament?

New Testament?

Both?

Christianity teaches that sin separates us from God.

Sin is what sent Jesus to the cross.

We are all sinners.

Born that way.

We sin because we are sinners.

Sin will ultimately land us in hell unless we trust in Jesus for the forgiveness of our sins.

Sin is the problem and Jesus is the solution.

Our hearts are black, but Jesus can make them white as snow through the blood he shed on the cross.

Without sin I wonder if Christianity would exist?

For those of us who are not Christians sin takes on a different meaning.

Since there is no God to offend and no God to give an account to, sin does not carry the force that it does with the Christian.

The list of sins, according to the Bible, according to the pastor, and according to each Christian, is quite long.

Every person has their own sin list and no list is the same.

As an unbeliever my sin list is quite short.

And it gets shorter every day.

Since I reject the Bible as an objective standard of right and wrong how do I determine my morals and ethics?

Do I need a God, religion, church, or pastor to tell me what my morals and ethics should be?

Do I need a supposedly supernatural text, the Bible, to tell me what my morals and ethics should be?

According to the Bible the entirety of the law can be summed up in two commands:

  • Love God
  • Love your fellow human beings

My morals and ethics are based on the premise that I should love my neighbor as myself.

I should treat people like I would want to be treated.

I should not do things that would harm other people.

I should value my relationships with my family and my fellow human beings to such a degree that  I live in such a way that my actions cause them no harm.

God does not enter the picture. My only concern is the relationships I have with others. When I live in a selfish, unloving, unkind, unjust manner then I am “sinning” against my fellow human beings.

My sin does not bring the judgment of God, but It does hurt the relationships I have with others. My sin causes personal loss and pain.

If what I do does not hurt others, if it does not damage my relationships with others then it is not “sin.”

This makes life much simpler for me.

I am still a “sinner”, but I am much less a “sinner” since I abandoned the Christian faith.

Losing God, the Bible, and the complex, never ending, sin list has allowed to realize, for the first time in many many years, that it is OK to be human.

After living a lifetime of denying who I am I can now be free to be Bruce. I am still finding out who I really am.

So much of my life was labeled as sin. Every thought, every word, every deed, every day, sin.

I suspect I will always have a Christian sin hangover. A lifetime of being beat over the head with an angry God, a dying Savior, and a divine rule book has left a lot of deep wounds.

Notes

I use the word sin is this post because I think Christians who read this blog with better understand what I am talking about. Please see Let’s Talk About Sin, Guilt, and Human Behavior for a better explanation of my view on “sin”.

Bruce, the Atheist Talks to James, the Pastor About the Bible

bible made me an atheist

Comic by my friend Mike Stanfill.

Recently, a fundamentalist Christian by the name of James commented on several of my posts on this site and on Facebook. James, a seminary trained Baptist, is convinced I hate God, hate Christians, hate the Bible, and live for the opportunity to mock and ridicule Christianity.

James describes himself this way:

I am a man “of the book.” I am a man of faith. My entire life is governed by my faith in an unseen God. Hebrews 11: 6 says “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” My entire life falls under the authority of the Word of God. No surprise there! And because my life is governed by God’s Word, I live a holy and godly life.

According to James, his entire life is under the authority of the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God. God said it, and that settles it and the real problem with atheists like me is that we refuse to bow before the power and authority of the Bible. One day, James warned, “there will be a day of reckoning and judgment by that man whom God hath appointed to be judge. And on that day, you WILL bow the knee and confess that Jesus Christ is Lord!”

I’m sure James really believes what he is saying. However, does James really govern his life by the word of God? Does he really believe every word in the Bible is pure and true? I’m sure if James reads this post he will shout from the roof tops, I BELIEVE EVERY WORD IN THE BIBLE…STRAIGHT FROM GOD’S MOUTH TO MY EAR  AND HEART!!!

What follows is how a conversation between Bruce, the atheist and James, the pastor might have gone….

Bruce: Every book, every chapter, every verse, every word?

James: Yes, all 66 books, 1,189 chapters, 31,102 verse, and 788, 258 words. (King James Bible Statistics)

Bruce: Do you think homosexuality is a sin?

James: Yes, the Bible says in Leviticus 18:22 that homosexuality is an abomination.

Bruce: So, you support the execution of homosexuals? Leviticus 20:14 says homosexuals should be put to death. And Leviticus 20:10 says adulterers should be put to death. Do you support the execution of homosexuals and adulterers?

James: Well, you see…that’s in the Old Testament, so those verses are under the Old Covenant. We are under the New Covenant now. Praise God for his grace and mercy!

Bruce: What about the Ten Commandments?

James: Yes, I think the Ten Commandments are the inviolable law of God and are valid today!

Bruce: But, they are in the Old Testament.

James: Well, you see, the Ten Commandments are the moral law of God and God’s moral law is in force today.

Bruce: All ten commandments?

James: Well, you see, the command to remember the sabbath day and keep it holy is no longer in force.

Bruce: Where does the Bible say it is no longer in force?

James: Well, you see, it doesn’t, but if you take this verse, that verse, and put them together with these verses, and then interpret it though the proper theological grid…viola! the command to remember the sabbath day and keep it holy is no longer in force.

Bruce: Hmm. I thought the Bible says, I am the Lord thy God and I change not. Doesn’t the Bible says that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever? If God is unchanging, why do his laws change?

James: Well, you see…

Bruce: Didn’t Jesus say in Matthew 5: 17, 18 – Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. It seems to me that Jesus is saying the law of God is in force (valid, authoritative) until heaven and earth pass away. I just went outside and checked…heaven and earth are still here.

James: Well, you see, the Scripture must be rightly interpreted. You are interpreting it incorrectly and that’s why your beliefs are wrong. I interpret it correctly and that’s why my beliefs are right.

Bruce: I thought you were a man of the book, that you stand upon the B-I-B-L-E!

James: I do.

Bruce: Not really. If you were a man of the book, why would you need to interpret it? Aren’t you really saying that you are a man of a certain interpretation and that your interpretation of the Bible is the authority?

James: Pfft. You are putting words in my mouth.

Bruce: Let’s move on to the New Testament.

James: (under breath) Thank you, Jesus!

Bruce: So, you consider all the commands in the New Testament to be true and authoritative?

James: Absolutely!

Bruce: According to the Christian Assemblies International website, there are 1,050 commands in the 27 books of the New Testament. According to what you said previously, do you consider all 1,050 commands and authoritative?

James: Yes, they are the Word of God.

Bruce: Do the women in the church you attend speak during the service?

James: That’s a silly question. Of course they do.

Bruce: I Corinthians 14:34 says, Let your women keep silence in the churches: for it is not permitted unto them to speak; but they are commanded to be under obedience, as also saith the law. This verse says women are not permitted to speak in the church.

James: Well, you see, you need to understand the historical and cultural context to properly interpret this verse.

Bruce: So, we are back to interpreting again. I thought you were a man of the book? Shouldn’t someone be able to pick up the Bible, read it, and understand it? If people wanted to be saved, could they just pick up the Bible, read it and understand what they need to do to be saved?

James: Absolutely! I hand out tracts with Bible verses on them. If a person reads these verses they will know all they need to know about being saved.

Bruce: Hmm…OK. Does a person need to be baptized to be saved?

James: Absolutely not! That’s works salvation. Salvation is by faith through grace, not of works, lest any man should boast. Praise Jesus!

Bruce: Doesn’t Mark 16 say he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved?

James: Well, you see…

Bruce: Does a person receive the Holy Spirit when they are saved?

James: Yes, they do. The Holy Spirit lives in every Christian. He is their teacher and guide! He is the third part of the Godhead.

Bruce: So there are three G…(stop, Bruce, stay on point) Sorry about that. If someone is saved but not baptized, do they have the Holy Spirit living inside of them?

James: Yes, but they should be baptized as soon as possible. Baptism is an outward sign of what God has done on the inside.

Bruce: Doesn’t Acts 2:38 say: Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost? This seems to say a person must be baptized before they receive the Holy Spirit.

James: Well, you see, the word “for” in the Greek is “eis” and it means “because of.” In other words, a person is baptized because their sins have been remitted, not in order to have their sins remitted.

Bruce: So, to understand the Bible you need to know Greek?

James: (silence)

Bruce: I thought a person could just read the English Bible and understand how to be saved? Now you are saying they need to understand Greek?

James: Well Greek is the original language of the New Testament.

Bruce: Wait a minute. There’s a Greek New Testament that came before the English New Testament?

James: Yes, and the Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew.

Bruce: So, which words are the pure and perfect Word of God? The English or the Hebrew and Greek?

James: (launches into long explanation about the original languages and translations)

Bruce: OK, where I can I read these original manuscripts?

James: They don’t exist.

Bruce: What do you mean they don’t exist? Doesn’t this mean your faith is in a translation written by men and not the inspired, inerrant, infallible Word of God?

James: Absolutely not! We can KNOW that the English Bible is the pure and perfect Word of God. God preserves his Word down through the ages.

Bruce: And you know this HOW?

James: The Bible says…

I could go on and on and on in endless directions with this fictitious dialog between James and me. As I have easily shown, James’ belief in the Bible requires him  to interpret the text, so what is really pure and perfect is not the Bible but his interpretation. Whatever translation James uses has the fingerprints of man all over it. Since the original manuscripts no longer exist, James can’t be certain that the extant manuscripts contain the exact words of God, and he can’t be certain the translation he uses contains in perfect form the exact words of God. Instead of saying THUS SAITH THE LORD, James should say, THUS SAITH THE IMPERFECT BIBLE, AS INTERPRETED BY JAMES, THE PASTOR.

101716

Ben Carson Refuses to Answer: Does the Bible Have Authority Over the Constitution?

flags near Fort Wayne Indiana

I saw these flags near Fort Wayne, Indiana. I wonder how many people driving by will notice the Christian flag flying above the American flag?

Seventh Day Adventist Ben Carson, a Republican candidate for President, refused to answer a question concerning his view of the Bible and the U.S. Constitution. On , Chuck Todd asked Carson, “does the Bible have authority over the Constitution?” Instead of honestly answering YESCarson attempted to dance around the question

“That is not a simple question by any stretch of the imagination. I think probably what you have to do is ask a very specific question about a specific passage of the Bible and a specific portion of the Constitution. I don’t think you can answer that question other than out of very specific contexts.”

The religious right refuses to be honest about their intent. I hope this question will be asked at the upcoming Republican debate. It will be fun to watch the candidates all turn into Rick Perry, unable to give a cogent answer. Those in the know already know the answer: of course the Bible has authority over the U.S. Constitution. Silly Chuck Todd, surely he knows GOD wrote the Bible and every Word is straight from Jehovah’s printing press. There’s no book like the Bible, and even the U.S. Constitution pales when compared to it.

I doubt that every Republican candidate is a Bible thumper, but they all know they need the votes of the religious right to get elected. Offend the loony bin wing of the party and they will abandon you quicker than Newt Gingrich abandons a sick wife. The current slate of candidates is willing to say almost anything to win over their base, so be prepared for a lot of God talk during the debates.

Some of the candidates are theocrats who think the Bible DOES have authority over the U.S. Constitution. These candidates are a direct threat to our republic and I hope Republican voters will see them for what they are. Men such as John McCain and Mitt Romney were/are pragmatists, willing to say the right things to get elected. Once nominated/elected, such men tend to move towards the center in hopes of attracting independent and swing voters. The dangerous candidates are men like Ted CruzRick Santorum, and Scott Walker; men who put God and their peculiar religion before Country.

As I have stated on numerous occasions, the joining of church and state always leads to loss of freedom and bloodshed. When I entered the ministry in the 1970s, almost every Baptist preacher believed in a strict separation of church and state. Today? It’s hard to find a Baptist who is willing to say he does. Drunk on political power, Christians now demand that Caesar recognize that there is one true God, the Christian God. Like their counterparts in the Middle East, once these zealots gain the power of the state they will use it to institute a Christian form of government. Once they gain power over all three branches of government, non-believers should expect a loss of liberty as God’s chosen ones exalt the Bible over the Constitution.

I want to end this post with the words of a speech given by John F Kennedy on September 12,1960 to the Houston Ministerial Association. I would love to see every candidate for public office asked if they agree with Kennedy:

…While the so-called religious issue is necessarily and properly the chief topic here tonight, I want to emphasize from the outset that we have far more critical issues to face in the 1960 election: the spread of Communist influence, until it now festers 90 miles off the coast of Florida; the humiliating treatment of our president and vice president by those who no longer respect our power; the hungry children I saw in West Virginia; the old people who cannot pay their doctor bills; the families forced to give up their farms; an America with too many slums, with too few schools, and too late to the moon and outer space.

These are the real issues which should decide this campaign. And they are not religious issues — for war and hunger and ignorance and despair know no religious barriers.

But because I am a Catholic, and no Catholic has ever been elected president, the real issues in this campaign have been obscured — perhaps deliberately, in some quarters less responsible than this. So it is apparently necessary for me to state once again not what kind of church I believe in — for that should be important only to me — but what kind of America I believe in.

I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute, where no Catholic prelate would tell the president (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishioners for whom to vote; where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference; and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the president who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.

I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish; where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source; where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials; and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.

For while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been, and may someday be again, a Jew— or a Quaker or a Unitarian or a Baptist. It was Virginia’s harassment of Baptist preachers, for example, that helped lead to Jefferson’s statute of religious freedom. Today I may be the victim, but tomorrow it may be you — until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped at a time of great national peril.

Finally, I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end; where all men and all churches are treated as equal; where every man has the same right to attend or not attend the church of his choice; where there is no Catholic vote, no anti-Catholic vote, no bloc voting of any kind; and where Catholics, Protestants and Jews, at both the lay and pastoral level, will refrain from those attitudes of disdain and division which have so often marred their works in the past, and promote instead the American ideal of brotherhood.

That is the kind of America in which I believe. And it represents the kind of presidency in which I believe — a great office that must neither be humbled by making it the instrument of any one religious group, nor tarnished by arbitrarily withholding its occupancy from the members of any one religious group. I believe in a president whose religious views are his own private affair, neither imposed by him upon the nation, or imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office.

I would not look with favor upon a president working to subvert the First Amendment’s guarantees of religious liberty. Nor would our system of checks and balances permit him to do so. And neither do I look with favor upon those who would work to subvert Article VI of the Constitution by requiring a religious test — even by indirection — for it. If they disagree with that safeguard, they should be out openly working to repeal it.

I want a chief executive whose public acts are responsible to all groups and obligated to none; who can attend any ceremony, service or dinner his office may appropriately require of him; and whose fulfillment of his presidential oath is not limited or conditioned by any religious oath, ritual or obligation.

This is the kind of America I believe in, and this is the kind I fought for in the South Pacific, and the kind my brother died for in Europe. No one suggested then that we may have a “divided loyalty,” that we did “not believe in liberty,” or that we belonged to a disloyal group that threatened the “freedoms for which our forefathers died.”

And in fact ,this is the kind of America for which our forefathers died, when they fled here to escape religious test oaths that denied office to members of less favored churches; when they fought for the Constitution, the Bill of Rights and the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom; and when they fought at the shrine I visited today, the Alamo. For side by side with Bowie and Crockett died McCafferty and Bailey and Carey. But no one knows whether they were Catholic or not, for there was no religious test at the Alamo.

I ask you tonight to follow in that tradition, to judge me on the basis of my record of 14 years in Congress, on my declared stands against an ambassador to the Vatican, against unconstitutional aid to parochial schools, and against any boycott of the public schools (which I have attended myself)— instead of judging me on the basis of these pamphlets and publications we all have seen that carefully select quotations out of context from the statements of Catholic church leaders, usually in other countries, frequently in other centuries, and always omitting, of course, the statement of the American Bishops in 1948, which strongly endorsed church-state separation, and which more nearly reflects the views of almost every American Catholic.

I do not consider these other quotations binding upon my public acts. Why should you? But let me say, with respect to other countries, that I am wholly opposed to the state being used by any religious group, Catholic or Protestant, to compel, prohibit, or persecute the free exercise of any other religion. And I hope that you and I condemn with equal fervor those nations which deny their presidency to Protestants, and those which deny it to Catholics. And rather than cite the misdeeds of those who differ, I would cite the record of the Catholic Church in such nations as Ireland and France, and the independence of such statesmen as Adenauer and De Gaulle.

But let me stress again that these are my views. For contrary to common newspaper usage, I am not the Catholic candidate for president. I am the Democratic Party’s candidate for president, who happens also to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my church on public matters, and the church does not speak for me.

Whatever issue may come before me as president — on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject — I will make my decision in accordance with these views, in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressures or dictates. And no power or threat of punishment could cause me to decide otherwise.

But if the time should ever come — and I do not concede any conflict to be even remotely possible — when my office would require me to either violate my conscience or violate the national interest, then I would resign the office; and I hope any conscientious public servant would do the same.

But I do not intend to apologize for these views to my critics of either Catholic or Protestant faith, nor do I intend to disavow either my views or my church in order to win this election.

If I should lose on the real issues, I shall return to my seat in the Senate, satisfied that I had tried my best and was fairly judged. But if this election is decided on the basis that 40 million Americans lost their chance of being president on the day they were baptized, then it is the whole nation that will be the loser — in the eyes of Catholics and non-Catholics around the world, in the eyes of history, and in the eyes of our own people.

But if, on the other hand, I should win the election, then I shall devote every effort of mind and spirit to fulfilling the oath of the presidency — practically identical, I might add, to the oath I have taken for 14 years in the Congress. For without reservation, I can “solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of president of the United States, and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution, so help me God.

101716